>>> Alan pulled his head from out of the abyss that lie beyond the seam, a space in his world where data wasn’t processed and graphics weren’t rendered, and basked in the buzz that persisted. His head felt like a block of silicon, unformed and floating down a river of mercury. Bugging out was one of his favorite pastimes these days, asides from debugging and hanging out with his digipal Piper.

He sat between two blue dumpsters in front of the seam in Old Shanghai, behind a shop where he just had some ramen. The seam ran between where brick walls from the backs of two stores should have met but, because of an imprecise calculation somewhere in the sprawling code base that rendered his world, they didn’t. With his head numb he watched lights from passing cars reflect off the puddles on the ground in the dirty alleyway. He had nowhere to go this particular evening; no one he wanted to see; and no better way to pass the time.

His watch buzzed. His dog’s face popped onto the small screen on his wrist.

"Hey Al, how was the ramen?" Piper asked between licks of his paw.

"It was magnifique," he replied with a flourish, and blew a kiss with his hands into the dewy air.

"That's good Al, very good. Djikstra left you a message; he said there's a new contract you might find interesting, once you're finished with your current one."

"A new contract from Ed, eh?" Alan thought aloud. He paused to think the last time he was offered one. "That is interesting. Thanks for the update."

"It's what I'm here for Al. I'll catch you later." Piper signed off with a loud Woof! and the video cut out.

Alan got up and walked back onto the main drag amidst an otherwise quiet neighborhood, and down its sidewalks drenched in reflections of neon lights from storefronts on both sides. He tried to remember the last time he took on a job that wasn't debugging. It must have been five years ago, for their Streams platform, back when they were doing a big push into social media. He was an alpha tester; he got in early to help iron out some of the bigger kinks. Since then it's been nothing but jobs he’d pick up on freelance boards for debugging existing New Horizons programs.

He walked past an animated neon sign of a smiling cat waving back and forth, the last store on the strip before colorful signs and billboards gave way to drab gray houses. His buzz had worn off. He thought of finding something else to do, perhaps check out the river, or see what everyone else was up to on Streams, but decided he had enough. He loved exploring new cities when he first plugged in, even if they were filled only with bots, but lately it had gotten tiresome. The new contract had piqued his interest anyways. He dialed Home on his watch and loaded into his apartment in New Dallas.

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